Speaking ahead of a United Nations High Level Meeting on non-communicable diseases, Professor Francesco Cappuccio from Warwick Medical School argued that a reduction of 3grams salt intake per day would prevent up to 8,000 stroke deaths and up to 12,000 coronary heart disease deaths per year in the UK.
Cappuccio said that similar reductions in the USA would result in up to 120,000 fewer cases of coronary heart disease, up to 66,000 strokes and up to 99,000 heart attacks annually, and would also save around $24 billion in annual health care costs.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set a global goal to reduce dietary salt intake to less than 5grams per person per by 2025, however salt intake in many countries is currently around double the target level.
Cappuccio said that the question is not whether to reduce salt intake, but how to do so effectively.
He noted that changing personal behaviour and choice alone is not an effective or realistic option when the majority of salt is added to food before it is sold and the commercial addition of salt to food is becoming a global trend.
“The huge responsibility of food manufacturers in contributing to the epidemic of cardiovascular disease must be acknowledged,” said Cappuccio.
“Prevention implemented through food reformulation and effective voluntary, market intervention or mandatory action throughout the industry is what needs to happen with society, governments, academia and health organisations all needing to play a part,” he said.
“However, denial and procrastination will be costly in terms of both avoidable illness and expenses,” he warned.
Writing in the BMJ, ahead of the upcoming United Nations High Level Meeting on non-communicable diseases in mind, Cappuccio and his colleagues make the case for population level policy interventions, arguing that a four-pronged approach is required which should form the base for a comprehensive policy.
Communication – establishing and evaluating public awareness campaigns
• Reformulation - setting progressive salt targets for reformulating existing processed food and engaging with the food industry in setting standards for new foods
• Monitoring - surveying population salt intake, progress of reformulation, and effectiveness of communication
• Regulation - engagement with industry, including regulation, to create a level playing field so as not to disadvantage more enlightened and progressive companies
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1136/bmj.d4995
“Policy options to reduce population salt intake”
Authors: F.P Cappuccio, S. Capewell, P. Lincoln, K. McPherson,